Cape Town - South Africa is preparing for a bumper festive season, with air travel bookings and passenger arrivals on the up and up - as Acsa's aviation barometer for the last quarter indicates a 5.5% increase in International arrivals.
Last year's festive season period between December 2015 and January 2016 saw more than 6.5 million passengers travelling through SA's airports. In anticipation, Acsa has already detailed its plans for beefing up operations for holiday-hub airports.
However the big question on key stakeholders minds is, will visa facilitation be running smoothly during this peak period in order to avoid delays.
According to the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) measures are being put in place to ease traffic flow and levels of congestion at the country’s international airports in the upcoming festive season.
SEE Biometric Delays: 3 quick-fixes to ease festive season spike at SA airports
But even more pressing is the long-standing confusion over South Africa's travelling minor visa requirements - specifically the Unabridged Birth Certificates (UBCs) for visitors coming from visa-exempt countries.
The TBCSA says in its efforts to resolve the persisting challenges facing the travel and tourism industry it met with the DHA in October to address the uncertainty around the requirement for UBCs, amongst other key issues.
This week the council stated it was particularly encouraged by the Immigration Advisory Board's (IAB) willingness to engage further on the redrafting of the regulations.
Currently, the regulation states that parents "may be required’’ to present UBCs on arrival into South Africa.
TBCSA’s main concern with the current wording of the regulation (which was raised at a recent meeting with the IAB) is that it is vague, open to interpretation and leads to even more confusion on the ground. In response, the IAB asked the TBCSA to suggest alternate wording for the UBC regulations.
TBCSA Chief Executive Officer, Mmatšatši Ramawela says the Council is currently canvassing its members for inputs in crafting the alternate wording for regulations on the movement of minors and when ready, they will be duly submitted to the IAB.
“TBCSA remains committed to working with its members and all other stakeholders to address and resolve the immigration issues that have unintentionally made South Africa less accessible to an even larger number of international tourists.
But with the holidays looming will the changes be in place in time? Traveller24 contacted the DHA to confirm what the wording would be and was informed the matter was being address with a "briefing to be held shortly".
"Tourism is a critical sector of our national economy and it is vital that we join hands to address and solve any issues that stand in its way of delivering the possible benefits. This is a sector that if nurtured, can continue its robust contribution to job creation for all our people and inclusive growth of the national economy”, says Ramawela.
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